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Molly's Cupcakes Plans First Franchise in Iowa City

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IOWA CITY, Iowa - The custom cupcake craze fueled by reality TV could be heating up in Iowa City soon.

A former employee of Chicago-based Molly's Cupcakes plans to open the bakery's first franchised location this summer in Iowa City, pending a $35,000 working capital loan to be considered by the Economic Development Committee of the Iowa City Council next week.

Jamie Smith, 29, of Iowa City, hopes to open the restaurant in late July at 14 S. Clinton St., the former location of Liberty Bank's downtown branch. The bakery will be open until midnight on weekends, offering an alternative to bars for late-night socializing, Smith said.

Smith worked for the original location of Molly's Cupcakes in Chicago's Lincoln Park neighborhood for more than two years before moving back to Iowa. The bakery is well known on Chicago's North Side, has opened a second location in New York City's West Village. It gained national exposure during an appearance on the Food Network program Cupcake Wars.

"I knew it would go over well, seeing the extreme success of it in Chicago and also knowing how Iowans were," Smith said. "It's just such a welcoming environment, and the cupcakes are delicious."

Molly's Cupcakes founder John Nicolaides named the bakery concept after his third-grade teacher, who baked cupcakes for her students on their birthdays.

Smith said friends encouraged her to open her own cupcake concept, but she instead asked Nicolaides for the company's first franchise.

"I love everything about what Molly's represents," she said.

Molly's offers 15 varieties of cupcakes, including "center filled" versions with cookie dough, cake dough, lemon merengue or other fillings. Customers can choose cupcakes off the rack or specify the toppings and frostings of their choice.

The inviting part of the atmosphere includes board games for children to play and swings for adults and children to sit on at the counter. A "sprinkle station" allows children to decorate their own cupcakes with sprinkles.

"You want to stay and hang out there," Smith said.

Several Cedar Falls entrepreneurs joined Smith as minority investors. She said they were interested in part because of the success of Scratch Bakery in that market.

The bakery will also offer cheesecakes, brownie's layer cakes and other dessert cakes, as well as ice cream.

Smith, a Manchester native, graduated from Central College in Pella before moving to Chicago. She worked in real estate before joining Molly's Cupcakes, where she worked both serving customers and later on the office side of the business.

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